Team River Runner: First Biathlon

Occasionally good things come in your email.  Earlier this past week, I received an email from Boating in DC that mentioned a fundraising biathlon for Team River Runner; a non-profit decided to providing healthy paddling adventures for healing severely wounded active duty service personnel and veterans. This particular biathlon is a 1 mile paddle and a 3 mile run.  I paddle.  I run.  I’m a disabled veteran.  This is a combination of all of those.  Not for one single second did I hesitate in signing up.  Not even the fact that I had my first trail run on Saturday.

When I woke up this morning and it was 37 degrees I was beginning to wonder what the heck I was thinking.  I turned on the heated seat in the car and made my way through DC towards the start line.  However, when I got out of the car and it was still only 42 degrees I began to really regret my clothing choice.  Lucky for me, D had left her jacket in the back of my car yesterday so I added her jacket to my already extensive layering! Shivering I walked quickly towards the boathouse.

If you have never lived on or near the water Potomac kayak one of the coolest phenomena (in my opinion) is the mist that forms over the water when the water temperature is warmer than the air temperature.  As I played lizard darting from sun patch to sun patch trying to get warm I watched the rowers scull up the Potomac.  It certainly was beautiful, even if it was only 42 degrees.

The first heat was the “elite” heat.  Definitely not my heat.  The second heat was made up of mainly SUPers.  The third heat was my heat.  By the time my heat came around it had warmed up enough for me to strip out of D’s jacket.  However, it still wasn’t kayak potomacwhat I would consider balmy.  I climbed into my kayak for the day, adjusted my footpegs, and attempted to get comfortable.   Every muscle in my body was screaming at me that they were stiff, regardless of the amount of stretching I had done. The dock volunteers dropped us into the water and we made our way towards the start buoy.  That’s when I saw the current.  CRAP! I probably should have checked the tide schedule before I signed up for my heat.  Dang blasted all.

They announced our start and we were off!  I started paddling like a mad woman.  Wind, check.  Current, check.  Lungs shutting down from the cold air, check.  Oh man, this was going to be rough.  I couldn’t stop paddling because it was a race.  I also couldn’t stop paddling because the current would make me go backwards.  I was just going to have to try to calm my breathing down enough to make it through until I hit the dock.  Hey, hope is a plan when you’ve got nothing else to go on. Hitting the dock, I was #4 of the ladies.  Now came the hard part; getting my lungs to stop aching while I got my legs to start moving.  I fished in my pocket for my inhaler.  XopenX don’t fail me now.

Heading down the course towards the turn around point every single muscle in my legs were screaming at me, my lungs were screaming at me, and the sloth side of my brain was throwing a raging temper tantrum.  As I ran out of the corner of my eye I could see the paddle turn around buoy.  Crap, I’ve only gone half a mile.  Oh this is not good.

As I went along the course I would pick different spots as goal posts.  Ok, I will walk when I hit the shadow.  Ok, I will run when I hit the skinny tree.  That sort of thing.  Other runners blew past me.  Even the lady who was really struggling with the paddle passed me.  Oh this is not good, not good at all I felt like I was running with concrete boots on my feet.  Meanwhile, my lungs were lodging their complaints and my legs were in agony.  One of the wounded vets blew past me on his recumbent hand bike.  My only thought? “Doodie head”.  I know, I know, it’s not the proper thing to think given everything he has given, but when your lungs are screaming at you that is the only thought you can have.

After the turn around and heading back to the finish line I was struggling.  No amount of XopenX was going to help me or my lungs.  I was just going to have to find my big girl pants and push through.  I maintained my same shadow to light walk/run combo.  As I picked up a run looking for my next walk point I came around a tiny bend and I saw it…the finish line!!  Oh sweet biscuits.  I just focused on the finish.  As I crossed under the archway I was elated and relieved.  FinisherI did it.  By far, it was the hardest three miles I have ever done.

The after party that TRR had was rather spectacular.  What was the most awesome part?  They had GLUTEN FREE muffins!!  No really.  I was beyond excited.  My lungs still burned, but the fact that I could actually take part in the festivities was, in a word, heartwarming.

I picked up D’s jacket and my t-shirt and headed the half mile back towards the car.  My lungs were still burning.  Not cool.  I climbed into the sun warmed car and headed for home.  Breathing in the warm air I took another hit from my inhaler and suddenly my lungs released.  The burning stopped.  I was finally able to take in a full breath.  Oh happy day!

I truly am grateful for being able to $415 for thIMG_4908e program.  My friends and family were extremely generous even given the short notification.  While it was only a drop in the bucket of their goal, I still feel proud that I was able to help.   The folks who ran this event were appreciative of every single one of their racers, and ran a truly amazing race today.  Everything ran like clockwork.  I can honestly say, I’m looking forward to doing this again next year.  Definitely going to have to invest in a breath warmer of some sort if I am going to keep this up.

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